Brazil’s Lula and Bolsonaro are about to face off again. What you need to know to make sense of this standoff
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Getty Images
We’re in the final stretch of the Brazilian presidential campaign — and the president may be the one to emerge triumphant this Sunday. But will it be a victory for Bolsonaro or President Jair Bolsonaro?
Both candidates make use of the platform they claim to be outsiders: Jair Bolsonaro, the nationalist demagogue, and the far-right presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, the former army captain and former captain of the country’s most powerful air force before being jailed for two years for his role in a massive drug trafficking ring.
Bolsonaro, who is leading in every poll, is a very different kind of candidate. He claims to be the inheritor of a tradition of Brazilian conservatism that dates back to the country’s former military regime, and an unapologetic nationalist who is willing — for now — to play an outsized role in foreign policy. He has proposed withdrawing Brazil from the Paris Agreement on climate change in the face of a United Nations push for decisive action while also threatening to invade Venezuela and end ties with Cuba.
Jair Bolsonaro, on the other hand, has embraced the globalist policies of the Obama administration and is no anti-American. He has also built a reputation as an anti-establishment figure. The presidential campaign has been a clash of styles, of values and of ideologies.
The candidates’ differences have become more pronounced as the campaign has gone on. In an open letter published on Thursday entitled “What the Brazilians Want”, Bolsonaro said, in reference to the climate issue: “There is no reason not to work with the Americans to solve the problem, which is caused by the United States, just as there is a reason not to work with the European Union to solve the same problem.”
Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has vowed to take the fight to the United States on immigration issues and to “bomb the hell out of them militarily” if the world chooses to reject his country’s climate targets.
“I look at Jair Bolsonaro and I think to myself: You’re the most powerful person in the world,” John Loughlin, a senior fellow at Columbia University’s school